June 2020: The Month in Review

June continued a strong start to the summer for the cellular agriculture field. Compared to conventional animal products, cellular agriculture (cell ag) offers an alternative and more sustainable way to produce the same products, like meat or dairy, directly from cell cultures to meet the growing demand for animal products. Without requiring animals.
 
And this June, the cellular agriculture field continued to make progress to move the field forward. From new investments in the field to the launch of new pilot plants, we take a look at what happened this June in cellular agriculture.
 

Investments

Biomilq

Biomilq announced that the startup raised $3.5 million in its seed funding round. Founded by Leila Strickland and Michelle Egger, Biomilq is an infant nutrition company that uses cellular agriculture to produce mammary cell-cultured human breast milk. Containing thousands of unique molecules that nourish infants during an important stage of their development, breastfeeding is one of the most efficient ways to ensure healthy development in children. However, it is not always feasible for mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies.
 
 
From low milk production and medical challenges to incompatible workplaces or the stigma around breastfeeding in public, 84% of mothers transition their babies to dairy-based infant formula before the recommended six-month exclusivity period. There clearly needs to be more options in early-stage infant nutrition for parents and caregivers to feed their newborns. Enter Biomilq. 
 
By using mammary cell cultures, Biomilq aims to develop another way to produce cultured human breast milk that does not require a trade-off between a baby’s nutrition and the mother’s well being.
 
Based in Durham, North Carolina, Biomilq’s funding round was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, an investment fund established by Bill Gates to support innovation fighting climate change. Other investors in the round include Blue Horizon Ventures, Purple Orange Ventures, and Shazi Visram, the founder of Happy Family Brands and HealthyNest.
 
Biomilq plans to use the round of funding to optimize its production process to bring their cultured breast milk product to market. The startup also plans to expand its team and engage its multiple stakeholders: families, pediatricians, and the breastfeeding community about its novel product.
 

Turtle Tree Labs

TurtleTree Labs also announced that it raised $3.2 million in their seed round to make cell-cultured milk. Similar to Biomilq, the Singaporean startup has a different approach to making milk: cell-based milk. 
 
TurtleTree Labs plans to grow mammary gland cells that will directly produce the same mammalian milk. TurtleTree Labs initially plans to produce human breast milk before focusing on other mammalian milks, such as dairy milk.
 
 
TurtleTree Labs’ seed round featured investments from Green Monday Ventures, KBW Ventures, CPT Capital, Artesian, and New Luna Ventures. TurtleTree Labs initially raised its pre-seed funding round in January 2020.
 

Shiok Meats

Shiok Meats announced that the startup raised $3 million in a bridge funding round. Founded by Sandhya Sriram and Ka Yi Ling, Shiok Meats is the first cell-based meat company in Southeast Asia. Shiok Meats plans to produce cell-based seafood, like shrimp and other crustaceans, via cellular agriculture.
 
 
 
Shiok Meats’ bridge financing featured investments from Agronomics, VegInvest, Impact Venture, and Mindshift Capital. The latest funding announcement brings Shiok Meats’ total funding to $7.6 million. In April 2019, soon after showcasing the first cell-based shrimp dumpling, Shiok Meats announced its seed funding round of $4.6 million.
 

BlueNalu Announces Pilot Plant Operations

In a recent press release, BlueNalu shared that the cell-based seafood company is expanding their team and moving into a new facility in San Diego, California, of more than 38,000 square feet, a six-fold increase from their current space. The new facility will include a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) pilot-scale food production plant that will be designed for the commercial production of BlueNalu’s cell-based seafood products. The location will also feature BlueNalu’s first kitchen and demonstration space. In addition, BlueNalu shared plans to approximately double their staff to 50 people during the next 9-12 months. 
 
 
After announcing its $20 million Series A funding round in February, it’s promising to see BlueNalu expand to their new facility. In August 2019, BlueNalu became the first cell-based meat company to share its plans to commercialize its cell-based seafood through a 5-phase plan. Starting at R&D and small pilot scale testing in the early phases, BlueNalu expects to produce more then 18 million pounds of cell-based seafood annually in their large scale commercial manufacturing facilities in its Phase 5 down the road. With the new facility and funding round, the company aims to launch their products in the second-half of 2021.
 

Mosa Meat Moves into Pilot Plant in Maastricht

Mosa Meat also shared that the Dutch cell-based meat company moved into their new pilot plant facility in Maastricht, Netherlands. Pilot plant development is an important stepping stone for cell-based meat companies to validate how their production process will look like before moving to a larger facility, and Mosa Meat plans to produce their first products for market in this facility in the years to come.
 
 
In January 2020, Mosa Meat shared that the company received an undisclosed investment from Nutreco, a Dutch animal nutrition and fish feed group, and Lowercarbon Capital, a new venture capital fund led by Chris Sacca. At the same, along with the investment announcement, Mosa Meat also shared that the company started the development of its pilot plant.
 

GFI Asia Pacific Launches Asia ALT 100

The Good Food Institute Asia-Pacific team created and launched the Asia Alt 100, a listing of Asia’s top 100 protein disruptors for the year. From academic research institutions and raw materials providers to companies creating the food products, the listing features players working to change the future of food with both cellular agriculture and plant-based options. By looking at the whole ecosystem, the breakdown highlights all the different players and industries needed to develop a future food system.

Cell-based Meat Regulation Is Coming to Japan

How will regulation look like for cell-based meat in Japan? The Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Ministry in Japan shared that they will look to develop a regulatory framework to safely regulate novel food production in the country, including cell-based meat. Currently, IntegriCulture is the only cell-based meat company in Japan. In May 2020, IntegriCulture completed their Series A funding round to advance their research around cell-based meat and cell culture technology. IntegriCulture also launched its “Uni-CulNet” framework to standardize infrastructure for the cellular agriculture industry by providing a large-scale culture system.

Launching the New CellAgri Website and Course

CellAgri is excited to share the launch of the new CellAgri website.
 
One of CellAgri’s goals has been to become a home page for the field where everyone can come to learn about cellular agriculture and how to get involved. From the new Events and Report pages, we’ve added more ways to engage with the entire cellular agriculture ecosystem on the CellAgri website. 
 
 
Along with the latest eBook, the new website features an Introduction to Cellular Agriculture Email Course for beginners to the field. For 5 days, you’ll receive 1 story from us a day, spanning our introductory articles. This is ideal for someone who is just starting to learn about the field before jumping into the eBook.
 

The Plant-based Impossible Breakfast Sandwich in Starbucks

Starbucks announced that the coffee chain will launch the plant-based Impossible Breakfast Sandwich by Impossible Foods to its US menu. After launching in Burger King last May, it is promising for Impossible Foods to announce a partnership with the big coffee chain for their newer plant-based pork product. After raising $500 million in March 2020, the partnership highlights the growing demand for plant-based products in the US. 
 
Plant-based today, cell-based tomorrow? 
 

Realities of the Pandemic: Ocean Hugger Foods Closes down

Plant-based seafood company Ocean Hugger Foods announced that the company will cease operations and close down. As a company that sold exclusively to food service customers, such as restaurants and cafeterias, Ocean Hugger Foods felt the severe impact of its clients closing for lockdown. A recognizable name in the plant-based seafood field, Ocean Hugger Foods’ demise highlights the reality of the economic impact of the pandemic. 
 
Once considered a successful path to market for plant-based companies, the pandemic highlights the importance for alternative protein companies to diversify beyond food service and explore retail and direct to consumer sales. How will other alternative protein startups manage through the pandemic?
 

Conclusion

 
While companies like Impossible Foods were able to raise $500 million at the start of the pandemic, Ocean Hugger Foods’ story reflects the reality that other startups in the plant-based or cellular agriculture fields may not be able to do the same to stay afloat. Companies that once focused solely on food service will need to adapt and develop new business strategies to survive the pandemic.
 
With funding announcements of two Singaporean startups within one week, it is promising to see Singapore position itself as a leader in the future of food with cellular agriculture. With the national goal of producing 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs locally by 2030, supporting a growing cellular agriculture ecosystem offers the country a promising way to achieve its national food security-related goals.
 
As the field continues to grow and reach pilot scales, like BlueNalu and Mosa Meat this June, it’s likely that more cellular agriculture companies will find partners to further scale. From developing cell lines to cell nutrient formulation to bioreactor development, there are many opportunities for collaboration with companies in related industries. In January 2020, both BlueNalu and Mosa Meat announced partnerships with Dutch animal nutrition and fish feed group Nutreco to supply ingredients required to make the cell culture media for cell-based meat production. 

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